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Exclusive: Almost one million people in England overpaid for NHS prescriptions in 2022/23 – are you one of them? Here's how to cut your costs

Are you one of the almost one million people in England who overpaid for NHS prescriptions in the 2022/23 financial year? If you get more than one prescription a month on average, you could save with a prescription 'season ticket' – here's how.

A prescription 'season ticket' – officially known as a 'prescription prepayment certificate' (PPC) – covers all of your prescriptions over a specific time period for a set price. Currently, prescription and PPC prices are as follows:

  • £9.65 per prescription (up from £9.35 in 2022/23).
  • £31.25 for a three-month PPC (up from £30.25 in 2022/23).
  • £111.60 for a 12-month PPC (up from £108.10 in 2022/23) – you can choose to pay this in 10 Direct Debit payments of £11.16.

This means a 12-month PPC can currently save you at least £4.20 a year if you buy 12 or more prescriptions. Alternatively, a three-month season ticket can currently save you at least £7.35 if you buy four or more prescriptions. The more prescriptions you need, the more you can save with a season ticket.

PPCs usually go up in price each year in April, so if you're considering getting one, you might want to do so now as prices could potentially rise again soon – see more on how to get a prescriptions season ticket below.

Prescriptions remain free of charge for those residing in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. See our cheap and free prescriptions guide for more on how to cut your costs.

MSE founder Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "We need to spread the word to anyone in England who regularly gets prescriptions – including some with chronic illnesses – to check out prepayment certificates.

"And do it sooner rather than later; there's still a chance the price of these season tickets may rise in April. If so, doing it now would mean you pay less for longer.

"My simple rule of thumb is if you get more than one prescription a month on average, a prepayment certificate is the cheapest option as it caps what you pay. They give you unlimited prescriptions for either three months or a year. For someone using an average of two prescriptions a month, it'd be a £120 saving and it'd reduce the worry if you needed more, as you wouldn't have to shell out more."

If it's right for you, here's how to buy a prescription season ticket

You can buy a season ticket online, over the phone on 0300 330 1341, or at many pharmacies. If you can't afford the full cost upfront, you can instead pay by monthly direct debit. And if you've paid for prescriptions while waiting for your season ticket to arrive, you can use an NHS FP57 refund form (ask the pharmacy or dispensary which dispenses your prescription for one) to get your money back.

If you get prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy, you may be able to save even more with the Hormone Replacement Therapy Prescription Prepayment Certificate (HRT PPC).

In the 2022/23 financial year, our Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), which manages NHS finances, revealed there were 2,901,587 PPCs purchased in total – including annual and three-month versions.

Before buying a prescription season ticket, check first if you even need to pay for one

Before buying a prescription season ticket, always check first if you qualify for an exemption and can avoid paying for a prescription entirely. The NHS has an online 'Do I get free prescriptions?' tool where you can check your eligibility.

More people qualify for free prescriptions than you might think – not just those on a low income and in receipt of certain benefits. For example, those:

  • Aged under 16.
  • Aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education.
  • Aged 60 and over.
  • Who are pregnant or who have had a baby in the past 12 months (provided you have a valid maternity exemption certificate).

See the NHSBSA website for full details. Also be aware that if you're prescribed medication, such as painkillers or dermatology creams that are also available over the counter, often it's cheaper to buy them that way rather than buying them via a prescription.

Almost a million people missed out on savings in the 2022/23 financial year

In the 12 months leading up to April 2023, almost one million people in England (952,874) missed out on combined savings of £39.5 million (around £42 each) after paying for an average of 16 items without a season ticket, according to figures obtained by a MoneySavingExpert.com FOI request.

In total, 2,901,587 PPCs were purchased during the 2022/23 financial year, including annual and three-month versions, our FOI request to the NHSBSA revealed.

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